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Thread: FoM regionals, 22-23 SEP 2017

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  1. #1
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    Default FoM regionals, 22-23 SEP 2017

    This is a tale of opportunity and failed execution. We were on the right fish and got them to bite. A handful of silly mistakes cost us a solid finish. That said, the week spent on SML was a huge learning event. It's no longer as intimidating as it once was. Picked up on a few things that will definitely help in the future.

    Practice. I had the pleasure of meeting and sending a day on the water w/ a long time SML local who's been around the lake since they started filling it. He and I got together in late AUG for a day of scanning, charting, and talking. He talked about things he's done in the past and I shared how I've approached similar situations. During our outing I registered 150+ way points, most of which were offshore stuff - the kinds of things many weekend anglers idle or run WOT over. I took the time to plot many of these on my SML map to see what kinds of trends or patterns might be there. I was surprised to see how many of them were tied to channel turns, sharp drops, odd-shaped points, and in a few cases where all of these came together. The latter group of WPs proved to be especially productive for us during practice.

    Squire and I divvied up the water on all 3 practice days, focusing on the area south of Hales Ford Bridge and the first ~5-7 miles of the Blackwater River. TUES was a deep water day. Almost all of the bites we had came in 20+' (w/ a few shallow fish - all knotheads - mixed in). On WED we noticed the fish making a gradual move up to the 10-20' level. By THUR almost all of the quality fish we caught were holding steadily in 6-12'. We caught fish a variety of baits but a medium running crankbait and the trusty ol' c-rig were the most reliable, productive. Our game plan after practice was simple - we were going to run-n-gun a series of main lake and secondary points in the special category I mentioned above. We would make a pass w/ crankbaits, then follow up w/ rigs for a 2nd pass.

    TX day 1. We drew #23 (middle of the pack) and made the run to the BW. We started off working topwaters on a couple of long points and humps to no avail. From there we began our point-hopping routine, gradually working our way out of the BW and back towards SML SP. At our first stop we bang out a short keeper then I hook up on a big SM. It comes 3' out of the water in a vertical jump and spits the crankbait back at me. Missed opportunity #1. The morning was fairly slow but steady. Over the course of the morning we added fish to our creel alternating between the crankbait and rig. Around midday we hit a wad of SM holding on a long tapered point. Over the course of 30 or so minutes we bang out several short fish and few keepers. One of those was a solid keeper that would have definitely helped. It hit my bait right at the boat so there was no time to net it. I boat flipped it onto the deck and it came unbuttoned. Before I could secure it it flopped off the side. Missed opportunity #2. We caught fish later in the day but none of them helped. We ended up w/ 5 fish for 8.33 lbs - all SM (a first for me).

    TX day 2. Launch order reversed but it didn't matter much to us since we were dead in the middle of the pack. We made the same run down to the BW and picked up where we left off. There was a ton of activity on our topwater area but no takers. We started our point hopping routine, hitting the same points we'd hit the day before. Once again I hook up on a large SM only this time it doesn't spit the bait. It broke the treble. Not a typo - this fish broke the treble it had in its mouth. I stood there, dumbfounded, wondering what I could have done to prevent that. Missed opportunity #3. #4 followed shortly thereafter when a solid SM keeper nailed my crankbait, again right at the boat, and shook off. After that the morning was painfully slow. Not even a sniff on any of the stops we made. We added some similar points and structure we'd passed on the day before, thinking one would eventually give up a fish. Nope. Later in the morning we decide to change up and fish a handful of areas we'd charted large schools of baitfish in. The bait was grouped in large schools and was hugging the bottom. Every once in a while we'd mark a predator fish hovering right below them. We targeted these w/ a weighted swimbait. After a few casts we hook up on fish #1 - a solid 2 lb LM keeper. About 20 mins later we hook up on a better fish - a nice 4.14 LM. After that stop played out we hopped from place to place where we'd charted similar bait activity. We hook up on our 3rd and final keeper of the day with about 30 mins to go. We finished day 2 w/ 3 fish for 7.50-something.

    Observations. 1) Water temps held steady between 75 and 79 degrees. I'm sure a few places had 80-degree water (it was warm) but we didn't see any. Clarity is good in the midlake region, a little stained in the BW (maybe 3' of viz). Backs of creeks and larger coves are also s lightly stained. 2) Baitfish everywhere. Gizz, herring, alewife, all of it. Some deep in main creek channels, some way up in the water column. We didn't see any schooling activity but we did chart some feeding deeper, esp on the herring. All of our bites occurred near herring schools. 3) Breaks were key for us. Early on in practice it was 2nd or 3rd breaks. Later and during the TX is was first breaks. A bait would no sooner clear the break than a fish would nail it (esp the SM). 4) Points w/ long tapers were better for us than short points. Long tapered points w/ a hump on the end were best. Many of our fish came from the saddle (the space in between the hump and the shoreline). You had to have deep water (+20') nearby. 5) Wind was our friend in practice and during the TX. No wind, no bites. When the wind picked up so did the fish activity. 6) Nothing fancy to our lure selection - shad patterned crankbaits, soft plastics in GP. A lil chartreuse dye on the tail helped. I used a stop-n-go routine when cranking. A slow drag w/ frequent pauses was best for the c-rig.

    A few lessons. 1) Not all treble hooks are created equal. I've been told many times to change out factory trebs w/ something a little higher end. I didn't do that. In fact, I didn't even think about it until it was too late. I just ordered a bunch of stronger wire trebs to refit my crankbaits. Also, trebs get dinged up as the bait digs into the bottom or over rocks and logs. A quick visual inspection will tell you if you need to change one out. The prudent angler will do this regularly as a preventive measure. 2) Check your line often. My most productive crankbait ran ~10'. I threw it up beyond the break and would parallel retrieve it. For those first few turns of the handle that bait is digging hard. In some cases it crawls over logs or rocks. Every time it does this the line has a chance of getting knicked up. Every few casts I would run my fingers up the line about 12-18". If I felt a knick I retied. I did not lose a fish due to broken line all week (another first for me). 3) Line diameter matters. During practice and on day 1 I had my crankin' stick spooled w/ #12 fluoro. FRI nite I respooled w/ #10 fluoro (had run out of #12 and failed to replace it). I could tell the bait was running differently. I can't say for sure the fish minded (since I did have a couple of nice SM kill my crankbait) but if I can feel the difference there's a good chance the fish can feel/see/sense a difference.

    SML has always been a little intimidating. Dunno why - I've fished much bigger lakes w/ heavier rec boat traffic and reputations for wild weather. For some reason I got it in my head that SML was hard. After this past week I can say that SML can be very hard but it's no longer this imposing body of water I try to ignore. 22,000 acres may not sound like a lot (esp after having fished Toledo Bend, KY Lake, Guntersville, and other larger lakes) but the layout fishes much bigger. The key for me was breaking it down into manageable chunks, then discerning as much detail in each chunk before moving on. The abundance of points, channel swings, and offshore structure can make it difficult to stay focused. If you spend a little time over a map and then on your electronix you can narrow down the kind of structure you're looking for. For me, the map study and on-water charting helped me distill all of the stuff out there into something I could get my head around. I wasn't cluttered or distracted when I ran by something I hadn't fished or scanned. I was able to avoid the 'oooh, that looks good' syndrome and stay focused on what I'd learned in practice. None of this is unique to SML. I've used this very approach on larger bodies of water. Why I let SML get to me I'll never know but I'm now at a point where I can't wait to come back. The confidence that comes from time on the water (TOW) and map/chart study cannot be underestimated. Now I just need to work on the execution piece.

    peace,
    B

  2. #2
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    Nice report and good on you for catching a few of those wiley SM's down there. The crankbait bite will continue to improve down there all the way to the low 50's. Also don't forget a buzzer as it cools further and the bait moves back in the creeks. I love Smith, but I mainly just fish it Nov-Apr, then I leave it for the rec guys, bit too busy for me during warm weather.

  3. #3
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    great week pard. You are a testament to to the adage that focus and persistence and TOW are hard to beat. I was amazed at the different way we fished this week. The run and gun used to be a topic of conversation, well you made it real and I can tell you that it was a very different experience and we would have never learned what we learned nor stumbled on to the 3 points of about 20 we hit that held active fish. I gained a new appreciation on why some of the top
    anglers shoot and scoot.....
    cheers,
    Steve

    2011/2013 St Jude's Charity Tournament Champion
    Bass East Big Bass Challenge winner of 11-12 and 12-1 hours.


  4. #4
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    Nice read Brian, sounds like a good weekend for fishing and learning a good deal. Thanks for sharing fish on hope to see you at veterans day event on Anna.
    2017 Ironman winner

  5. #5
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    Great report Brian. Sounds like you had em figured out.
    2013 Frog Only Tournament Winner
    2010 Tie for VA-Outdoors Angler of the Year
    2009 Caroline County Rotary Club Tournament Winner
    2007 Tuesday Night Classic Champions
    "Many men go fishing all of their lives without knowing that it is not fish they are after."

  6. #6
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    Nice report buddy. Love the shoot and scoot pattern.
    2010 VAO Polar Bear Overall Winner
    2010 VAO Polar Bear Big Striper



  7. #7
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    Thanks for the report Brian, Sounds like ya'll had a good event and gathered some good intel on SML!


    Sorry we didn't get to see you guys, my lower unit decided to give up the ghost on Thursday morning during practice. I was so mentally defeated I couldnt imagine fishing off the TM for two days so we headed back ti Richmond.
    I will give a huge shout out to Team Williams, who took time out of their day to give me a tow back to the ramp we launched from (4+ miles). Mike and David are two absolutely stand-up Genuine good guys I'm proud to call friends.

    again Congrats on a good event!
    </div>

  8. #8
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    Quote Originally Posted by Stratos976 View Post
    Thanks for the report Brian, Sounds like ya'll had a good event and gathered some good intel on SML!


    Sorry we didn't get to see you guys, my lower unit decided to give up the ghost on Thursday morning during practice. I was so mentally defeated I couldnt imagine fishing off the TM for two days so we headed back ti Richmond.
    I will give a huge shout out to Team Williams, who took time out of their day to give me a tow back to the ramp we launched from (4+ miles). Mike and David are two absolutely stand-up Genuine good guys I'm proud to call friends.

    again Congrats on a good event!
    Team Williams Rock! That said, there were LOTS of fish in the State Park cut you could have leaned on. Huge Herring schools straight out from the community fishing pier.
    cheers,
    Steve

    2011/2013 St Jude's Charity Tournament Champion
    Bass East Big Bass Challenge winner of 11-12 and 12-1 hours.


  9. #9
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    Great report 31. Sounds like y'all were/are dialing in the Blackwater.

    Keep it up.

  10. #10
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    Quote Originally Posted by gnfsnva View Post
    Great report 31. Sounds like y'all were/are dialing in the Blackwater.

    Keep it up.
    no y'all in that...Brian was the catcher, I had but one fish that counted....his hard work on SML over the last year really showed in baits and fishing style and locations...
    cheers,
    Steve

    2011/2013 St Jude's Charity Tournament Champion
    Bass East Big Bass Challenge winner of 11-12 and 12-1 hours.


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